We say it, but do we mean it?
It’s easy to let it roll off the tongue: ‘thanks’, ‘thanks much’, ‘thanks a lot’. And not just to each other. In prayer: ‘thanks, God, for ____ (fill in the blank)’, ‘thanks, Jesus, for what you’ve done for me’, ‘thanks, Father, for Your Word’. But whether with each other or God, how sincere are we?
Often we just move on waiting for the next thing to be thankful for. Perhaps a pause this week as America celebrates Thanksgiving – and a daily pause – to ponder what thankfulness really is and how to live it not just say it. “And whatever you do, in word or in deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.” (Colossians 3:17 HCSB)
I love the simplicity of the Bible. Yes, it can be quite deep and complex. But then suddenly, it opens up and sums up the ‘need to know’: “Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.” (1Thessalonians 5:16-18 NLT)
Life is hard. It doesn’t always turn out the way we thought it should. We don’t always want to walk the road we find ourselves on. I’m guessing the men and women who travelled the Atlantic and suffered the loss of life and livelihood to make a new life in America weren’t too thrilled at first either. But their response: find joy, keep praying, thank God no matter what. A good lesson for you and me.
We have something the whole world needs. It’s more precious than all the money on earth combined can buy. It never wears out, never goes away, gets more valuable with every moment. The more we share it, the more it’s worth.
It’s called salvation and we don’t have to sacrifice or spend money to get it. It’s a free gift, for the asking. And we can ask this too: Jesus, help us live with sincere hearts.
“Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith…Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for He who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.” (Hebrews 10:22a, 23-24 NIV) Live Thanksgiving.
We used to own a sign store. We made little vinyl signs and we made signs the size of a small house. Some were for businesses to announce their location, some were banners announcing a special occasion.
It may be a bit early, but this year aren’t we all a little more excited about: the birth, the coming, the miracle? A baby – born to a virgin – who lived a sinless life – knew God’s will – gave sight to blind and a thousand other miracles – then died, willingly – and then…defeated death and rose to life so that all who believe will never die.
Many signs announced Jesus. From Isaiah of old telling of a virgin birth, to a star and angel choir welcome, to one calling in the desert and preparing the way, to the scorning and abuse by those who should have recognized Messiah, to whiplash stripes removing his skin, to outstretched arms taking our sin, and ushering in eternity. “He was in the world, and though the world was made through Him, the world did not recognize Him.” (John 1: 10 NIV)
Even so we still ask for a sign.
“He came to that which was His own, but His own did not receive Him.” (John 1:11 NIV) If You do this Lord, I’ll do that. Don’t you care Lord, heal me. If God is good, then why evil? If God is love, then why allow hate? A sign, then we’ll believe.
And so with heavenly patience He grants our next breath. Extends salvation to another hungering seeker. Holy Spirit reveals Himself through His Word, His promises. He holds the cosmos in order. Welcomes each believer stepping from death bed to eternal ever.
One miraculous moment after another.
For those with hearts to see, ears to hear. But a deaf world is tuned in only to what the next power grab is, what the next paycheck will buy, what the next moment of fame will bring.
Here’s our sign (for all who will believe): “Yet to all who received Him, to those who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God” (John 1:12 NIV)
Time for a reset – so much we can’t control. Evil does prevail at times. Was God looking the other way, asleep? Hardly.
We tend to lose focus. We think all outcomes, that aren’t what we had hoped for, are personal. Like we’re the superstar of the universe – what we think is best, must surely be what God has in mind as well.
So whatever our current disappointment, challenge, or loss is – sometimes it just helps to take a step back. Ask the big questions: if things never work out the way I desperately need them too, can I still trust God? If hard times come, can I still find joy? “Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Savior.” (Habakkuk 3:17-18 NIV)
Answers to these questions must be: yes. Because any other answer means the God we say we believe in, isn’t much of God after all. Life has a way of working on each one of us. The end result always was – and will be – getting us to the point where we proclaim, it is well with my soul – no matter what.
Personally, I don’t care much for all the polishing it’s taking to get me to let go of doubt or fear or worry. But I am grateful for it. Each day we grow closer to Jesus, is a day well-lived. We spend too much time trying to control a situation, worrying about an outcome, or stewing in anger over wrongs.
“Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from Him…Trust in Him at all times, O people; pour out your hearts to Him, for God is our refuge.” (Psalm 62:5, 8 NIV)
After a year of ups and downs and sideways, we need to step back and breathe. Let’s do a reset, right now. Instead of focusing on setbacks and loss, or grief and pain, or even elections and consequences – we look up to our Help. Instead of our daily agenda, we ask Jesus: ‘What is today’s agenda?’
Easier said than done when we’re sick, or a loved one passes, or child is in trouble, or the bank account is empty – or the myriad of life’s woes that chase us. “I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33 NIV)
Trust more, doubt less. Loosen our grip and feel His hold. Truly believe He is closer than our skin, because His Holy Spirit is in us. Begin turning our focus away from our big problems to our big God. In the end we’ll find He had it all under control. And the ‘end’ isn’t reality – for those who know Jesus, it’s an amazing beginning.
It’s November. When the ‘shelter in place’ thing first happened, I thought it would be a very long year. Instead it has passed like most of life – like a vapor.
Along with all the Covid stuff has been much more than we could have anticipated. Riots, politics, wars abroad, weather catastrophes, churches shut down – does the list end? Through it all, right from the start of this ‘new normal’, God has manifested Himself in amazing and unexpected ways.
Instead of meeting in each other’s homes, our neighborhood Bible study met at a park. In places no one would expect (southern California beaches and refugee tent camps and more), thousands of souls have heard that Jesus loves them. Life is meant for a single purpose – “I will declare that Your love stands firm forever” (Psalm 89:2a NIV)
Comes a time when we look back and realize how very quickly things move. I’m quite sure I was thirty-something not long ago. But age gives perspective as well. If you’re young, I get it, the not understanding those beyond fifty. I didn’t when I was young either. And our society has made us believe anyone with the signs of life etched on their outsides are irrelevant.
I, for one, wish I had sought out wisdom from those who walked the road ahead of me. Wish I had listened to those who tried to speak life-giving words to me. “I was young and now I am old, yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging bread.” (Psalm 37:25 NIV)
Want the answers to life’s questions? The solution for your current problem? The help you can’t find anywhere?
I’ve learned all my worrying hasn’t helped any situation. I’m still learning I’m not in control of the outcomes of the lives of those I love. Most of all I’m learning that the best way to put aside fretting and fears is to declare God’s Truth. We find answers when we acknowledge God is in control, God really does know best, and God may not answer our way – but His answers will not fail us.
I’m thinking children know something we’ve forgotten: approach all of life in expectation. God is always with us. Earthly life is a dash between two dates. Never ending life is awaiting Jesus followers – we will be awestruck. We’ll declare – Oh my God, how do you love me so? “Many, O Lord my God, are the wonders You have done. The things you planned for us no one can recount to You; were I speak and tell of them, they would be too many to declare.” (Psalm 40:5 NIV)
When my mom passed away I thought: she was the only one who knew me before I was even born. But that’s not true.
So many verses throughout the Bible speak of God knowing us from even before time. Don’t we all just want someone who really gets us? Someone, who even when we spout off something we don’t mean (or do mean), wants to be right beside us?
My three year old grandson knows I get him (for the most part 🙂 ). He talks away and comes up with crazy ideas. Sometimes he will pout and insist on his way. Sometimes he wears himself out and gets grouchy. I get it. Kind of like you and me – I know I pout, want my way, have crazy ideas, and definitely get grouchy. God spoke to Jeremiah long ago, but Jeremiah is flesh and blood just like us and so the Father’s words transcend time: “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart” (Jeremiah 1:5a NIV)
During the parenting years our children are sure we don’t understand them. That we’re too old, or not enlightened, or old school. Oh for some way to break through that friction parents and children have. If only they knew that we do so get them, we were once them thinking the same things.
The heart of Jesus aches the same. He wants us to know He understands. So much so that He took on flesh and walked this crazy earth. He knows how frail our bodies, hearts, and minds are. And He knows we long for a time when all the hard stuff is done with.
“Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in Your book before one of them came to be.” (Psalm 139:16 NIV)
And get this, this is how well God knows us: “Before a word is on my tongue you, LORD, know it completely.” (Psalm 139:4 NIV) Well, I don’t think anyone else knows our next words right?
Jesus sends the Holy Spirit to indwell us – kind of a hard concept – but when we become Christians that is what happens. Talk about being well-known. In essence, that truth means we are never alone.
“Then I will ask the Father to send you the Holy Spirit who will help you and always be with you.” (John 14:16 CEV) Need someone who gets You? Just ask. You’ve always been known.
Sometimes we cling so tightly to something that it slips right through our grasp.
Look at the things we cling to: a spouse for fear of losing them, children in fear something may happen to them, a job fearing another may not come along, money because it ‘solves’ all our problems, position because it defines us.
Until we wake up one day and find our grasping hand empty. The tighter we hold on, the more we realize people or things are not what our worth is found in. When we open our hands we find freedom (and not just for ourselves). Our releasing makes room for the Father to do those miracles that seem so elusive. God calls us to cling to Jesus, bury our head in the Holy Spirit, trust God with what we count as precious.
In the quiet of this morning an unwelcome question came to mind, unwelcome but hitting the mark. Why do we make so many demands on those we love, on life itself?
God only requires three things of us: “He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” (Micah 6:8 NIV) Neglect even one of these and we position ourselves for resentment, fear, anger, worry.
If we act justly then we are living lives that don’t encroach on the well-being of others. By loving mercy we let go of pride, self-righteousness, keeping score. And when we walk humbly – with God, peace is our path and strife melts away.
Often it feels like our very bones groan with the weight of life’s burdens. We forget these precious words: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28 NIV)
Light can break through our darkness. Our night will shine like the day if we will lift up our eyes to our Help. When Jesus was on His way to Jerusalem two blind men cried out to Him: “…’What do you want Me to do for you?’ he asked. ‘Lord,’ they answered, ‘we want our sight.’ Jesus had compassion on them and touched their eyes. Immediately they received their sight and followed Him.” (Matthew 20:33b-34 NIV) Two often missed words in that passage: followed Him. Open our eyes Lord so we may follow You. It’s all that’s required.
Ever wake up in the middle of the night and just need a sip of water? Our thirst mechanism is built in because water is vital for life. Keep hydrated and life goes on. No source of water, life can end pretty quick.
I’ve only experienced dehydration once – I was out on a warm day, walking a long distance, and forgetting to drink water. Suddenly I was weak and felt like I needed to sit, right where I was (embarrassing). Within minutes of getting several ounces of water in me, I could feel relief flood my body.
Not all thirst is physical. We can feel just as drained mentally, emotionally, and in our soul. “O, God, You are my God, earnestly I seek You; my soul thirsts for You, my body longs for You, in a dry and weary land where there is no water.” (Psalm 63:1 NIV)
America is thirsty right now. Souls have wandered so far away that we’re lost and about to expire. But God is on the move and great numbers are finding Living Water.
Revival – I used to always think it was a hokey kind of word. But the very meaning of the word is this: improvement in the condition or strength of something; an instance of something becoming popular, active, or important again. When God is important, a nation thrives. When He is ignored, chaos ensues. We’re at a crossroads: choose to turn to God or continue to forget Him.
“Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD, the people He has chosen as His own inheritance.” (Psalm 33:12 NKJV)
Not only America, but the whole world is parched and finding nothing to quench its thirst. Yet we’re living in amazing times and those who know Jesus have the chance to help others to the well that satisfies. “The one who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, will have streams of living water flow from deep within him.” (John 7:38 CSB)
What great news is found in the pages of the Bible. “‘I am the bread of life,” Jesus told them. ‘No one who comes to Me will ever be hungry, and no one who believes in Me will ever be thirsty again.'” (John 6:35 HCSB)
Yes, here on earth, water will always be necessary. But for a worn-out soul there is drink that satisfies forever. “Never again will they hunger; never again will they thirst…For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; ‘He will lead them to springs of living water.’ ‘And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.'” (Revelation 7:16a-17 NIV) Thirsty? Let God’s Holy Spirit fill you to overflowing.
We spend a lot of time thinking about tomorrow. It starts young “When I grow up…”. We always think we have tomorrow, until we don’t.
I spend a lot of time these days with an under four age group. The youngest, learning to walk, doesn’t know what tomorrow is. The middle one, almost two, just knows it’s a new day. The almost four always wants tomorrow to be the next play day at grammy’s. From little hearts and smiles and wide eyes I’ve learned a big lesson: don’t live in tomorrow. Live today, moment by moment, for we will never have this moment again.
“So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.” (Matthew 6:34 NLT)
A pastor that I greatly admire and learned so much from, has always said “Lord willing” when talking anything future tense. So, I’ve tried to remember to preface life that way as well.
It’s wisdom from James 4:15 “What you should say is this: “If the Lord is willing, we will live and do this or that.” (NLT) What happens is we get so wrapped up in trying to secure our future, we miss all the wonder of today. As we age, we begin to realize, since there’s not as many tomorrows, maybe we better enjoy now.
There’s much I want to impart to those I love. Mostly Jesus stuff. What I want them to realize is: “They are not just idle words for you– they are your life.” (Deuteronomy 32:47a NIV) When these words were spoken, a momentous event was about to happen – after much loss and lostness, Moses was telling the people what life really is. He was speaking God’s instructions to them.
God’s Words are life. They are not idle, dead, past tense. How often do we say: ‘If I just had a set of instructions for child-rearing, or navigating the hard times, or how to have peace’? We do! An amazing book that is not ancient, it is alive. Each reading bringing new insight.
How foolish we are, wrapped up in our own self-sufficiency. When that doesn’t work, we might crack open the Bible or pray. Why is that a last resort? Maybe it should be a new each morning habit – then perhaps all that today holds and our cares about tomorrow might just find their answers. Your life is precious to your Creator, He’s given you instructions, and He eagerly awaits you in each moment.
Rest and unrest are sort of coexisting in our lives these days. In some ways, many are having to do life a bit simpler. Less ‘going out’, more staying in the place we’re blessed with. May not be much for some and may be a mansion for others. But it’s space to call one’s own. And beauty is found in simpler ways.
I used to think about where we could go, what we could do. Now I think more about how quickly time flies by, how brief all these moments are.
Yet unrest about unknown is at our side as well. Then I consider all that God has done, is doing, will do. It’s phenomenal – and that’s an understatement. He spoke life and it came to be – every molecule of every thing. What mind can think up things too small to see but are so complex the smartest of scientists can’t define them? And then I think – worry? Why? “Consider how the wild flowers grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these.” (Luke 12:27 NLT)
At a time of much change, long ago in the nation of Israel, their spiritual leader, Samuel, gave a farewell speech. His wise words are timeless, we need to listen and take them to heart: “But be sure to fear the LORD and serve him faithfully with all your heart; consider what great things He has done for you.” (1Samuel 12:24 NIV)
Consider the great things He has done – God is bigger than all the what ifs. Every what if is already known and taken care of perfectly.
So instead of wondering what will be, time to consider what is. We still have life and breath. A few things may be missing – or even a few loved ones may have passed on. Yet God is still in control and is working for our good because of His great love.
That’s what Jesus came to remind us of. Many saw Him as a threat or a lunatic. But those with hearts to see, heard the Savior’s call. And lives were changed forever – literally. Eternity is His gift and one we can cling to. “Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” (Hebrews 12:3 NIV)
Don’t lose heart now – let His joy over you lift your weariness. Consider Jesus things, all is well with our soul.
PLaY CReaTivEly WitH YoUr LiTtLe OnE
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